Best Sports With Binary Outcomes

February 22, 2015 by
Image via www.bbc.co.uk

Image via www.bbc.co.uk

There are plenty of sports out there with binary outcomes, where one of two things has to happen. They’re generally the best choices for those who enjoy a punt on their chosen sport and have a deep knowledge of it. So, here’s why…

It’s all about value. Simply put, the value principle works for the house in a casino due to the margin. This is the green zero in roulette or the banker’s “pay” at blackjack etc. That is so, over a long enough period of time, the house will win out. Similarly, if you were ever given odds of an absolute smidgen better than even money on the fair toss of a coin, you would be a fool not to take the bet every time you were offered it. Even if you lost the first six tosses, you would always come out on top if you played it long enough.

Fortunately for you and me, sport isn’t as statistically simple as that. Sport throws up many odds anomalies that the experienced and knowledgeable punter can spot to his or her advantage.

And since the advent of the betting exchanges which totally transformed the gambling world, the experienced punter and sports expert can profit and this is most notably so in binary sports.



Photo by Steven Pisano

Tennis is perhaps the most obvious example. There has to be a winner and often those with really in-depth knowledge can tell when a player may not be giving quite as much as he or she would in a major Grand Slam tournament on the ATP Tour, for example. So, in those matches where the likely outcome is pretty close to even for both players, but one player’s odds are, for example, around the 6-4 mark, it is the ideal time to pounce. You won’t win them all, but you will steadily profit.

Similarly, experts will often recognize where a superior player is finding his or her range in a first set of a five-setter. The inferior player will often win this first set as the superior player is relatively unconcerned. But the in-play odds don’t reflect this at all.


Photo via David Rosen

Photo via David Rosen

The same principles hold true for betting on boxing with the likes of betfair, paddypower, totesport and others. Here, the outcome isn’t strictly speaking binary, as draws are of course possible. But they are rare. However, the possibility of the longshot draw tends to make the win odds slightly better which can again help play into the hands of the experienced observer–cum–gambler. Those with in-depth knowledge of boxing can really tell when a fighter is tiring or feigning etc, before the rest of the market.


Photo via Paolo Camera

Photo via Paolo Camera

Football isn’t obviously binary. All games are three-horse races; win, lose or draw. But there are a couple of examples where the outcomes are binary as in which side will progress to the next round in a cup competition or which will lift the trophy in a final. Similarly, Asian handicaps give one team a half-goal start. This is usually rendering the draw impossible.

It’s harder to be a real expert in football than in tennis and boxing but there are opportunities nonetheless. In particular, look out for the big play-off games in England at Wembley at the end of the season, which saw QPR beat Derby in the Championship last season. These are almost always 50-50 chances in reality but the odds never reflect this. The same is often true of the FA Cup final, where the team’s standing and form seem to go out of the window on the day. In these situations, back the underdog.


Snooker, darts, squash, cricket, both types of rugby, basketball, baseball, American football and other sports can all offer binary outcomes from time to time, depending on the nature of the event and type of bet (as with football).

The trick is in using your in-depth expertise to recognise those opportunities where the outcome possibilities are evenly matched but the odds are not. If your judgement is sound you will inevitably make steady progress. But always test it out rigorously first with tiny amounts that don’t matter to you before starting to try and trade up.